Northwestern Visits Michigan St. can Lightning Strike Again?

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Jeff Ghiringhelli asks the questions, Paul M. Banks answers

– Northwestern was able to go into the Breslin Center last year and get a win. What is one major key to the game that could allow the Wildcats to do it again?

Like Sir Mix-a-Lot said “put ’em on the glass”. Ok, apologies for referencing the lamest ’90s one-hit wonder of all-time. The reason Sparty pulled away in the second half of their meeting January 2nd, was because they owned the glass, and then used that advantage to get Durrell Summers and company out into transition. This was a deadly double barrel for the Wildcats during their meeting in Evanston. So if Northwestern can 1.) keep the rebound margin close 2.) get back on defense right away when States grabs defensive rebounds, they’ll have a chance to win.

– Kevin Coble, and his 31 points, was obviously a huge reason for the upset last year. Who needs to step up the most for the Wildcats tonight?

Take a long hard look at John Shurna. He’s filling the Coble void in minutes, points and rebounds. After posting
norms of 7.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per game as a freshman, Shurna has raised those averages to 17.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game in 2009-10. He ranks fifth in the Big Ten in scoring and sixth in rebounding. The 10.0 point-per-game boost is the largest increase of any Big Ten player from last season to this season. He scored at least 20 points in five straight games from Dec. 19-Jan. 7, including scoring a career-high 29 points against Central Connecticut State Dec. 22 and again vs. MSU the first time

– This road game is probably the toughest Northwestern has faced this season. Without Coble and Craig Moore to calm the troops, what are the chances they get rattled and come undone?

Somewhat high, but I will say this. Every home game for Northwestern goes as follows: Non-conference games they play in front of a friendly crowd, but it’s 40-70% empty. For conference games at Welsh-Ryan Arena, it’s sold out, but 45-55% the other team’s fans. So Northwestern pretty much plays every home game in a “neutral court” atmosphere. If there’s any team in the Big Ten that’s not susceptible to the home/road discrepancy of play, it’s the Cats. Simply because they’re used to playing front of a (at least partially) somewhat hostile crowd. Also, Craig Moore’s best asset was leadership last season, but the way this team has come together in the forced absence of Coble and Jeff Ryan shows they have enough chutzpah and cajones!

– An upset would be the biggest win for Northwestern this season. Would it be enough to get them into the tournament for the first time?

This would definitely be their signature win, much bigger than the wins over Purdue and Notre Dame. I’ve mapped out in detail what it takes to get NU a tourney bid. I went game by game the rest of the way with my predictions of what their final regular season resume would look like. You can read that in entirety here.

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